It's time to live out that Arabian Nights fantasy you've been harbouring! Escape into a world of Kasbahs, Imperial cities and cinnamon-coloured sands with our Oh-So-Moorish tour of Morocco. Our Morocco cultural tours will have you wandering amidst the snake charmers and street performers in Marrakech as we journey deep into Morocco's cultural heartland, making like Lawrence of Arabia as we ride the sands of the mighty Sahara atop our camels, sampling the myriad delights of the Moroccan kitchen and breathing in the crisp mountain air on what feels like the top of the world in the High Atlas Mountains. Soul satisfying travel at its best!
Our cultural tour of Morocco commences this evening in Morocco's largest city, Casablanca. After our welcome meeting we will head to one of our favourite restaurants where you will be introduced to the delicious flavours of North African cuisine.
A trip to Casablanca wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the only mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims: the Hassan II Mosque. A relative new-comer (it was completed in 1993) this mosque is amongst the largest mosques in the world (the sheer scale of the courtyard is jaw-dropping) and the finest artisans from across the country were commissioned to carry out the intricate detailing on everything from glass to woodwork and marble. Later we’ll head south to Essaouira via the stunning seaside town of Oualidia where the golden sands and crescent-shaped lagoon make the perfect backdrop for a sumptuous seafood feast. After our leisurely lunch we’ll drive to the relaxed seaside town of Essaouira.
Originally an 18th century port town, Essaouira's waterfront locale and laid back attitude make it the perfect place to spend a day soaking up the atmosphere and strolling the picture-postcard ramparts and shopping for souvenirs in the laid-back souq. This afternoon why not enjoy a stroll along the soft sandy beach before settling in for cocktails from the rooftop bar with the best view in town as the sun sets into the Atlantic Ocean. This offers the perfect way to soak up Morocco's culture.
A leisurely start this morning before heading to a local winery just outside of
Essaouira. We’ll sample a selection of their wine before enjoying our lunch overlooking the vineyards. After lunch we’ll visit an argan co-operative where you’ll learn how argan oil is produced (yes, the same argan oil that is used in “Moroccan Oil!)) before arriving at the Kasbah du Toubkal, our home for the next two nights.
There is the option today to go on an included trek of the surrounding foothills and villages where we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the verdant valleys. If you’re not feeling particularly energetic you can enjoy the serenity of the Kasbah and perhaps even a traditional hammam (bath).
Today we head to the chaotic city of Marrakech but first we will visit a small village on the outskirts of Marrakech where we’ll meet an extraordinary chef who will teach us the secrets of the Moroccan kitchen, including how to cook some of the delicious fare we’ll be eating throughout our trip. After all this hard work, it’s time to devour the fruits of our labours!
Our first full day in Marrakech! This morning we will begin to explore the myriad treasures of the Marrakech medina including the Saadian Tombs and the Ali ben Youssef Medersa. This afternoon get lost amongst the snake charmers, musicians, street performers and henna artists in this quintessential Moroccan city. Later we’ll head to one of our favourite restaurants where we’ll sample more of those delicious Moroccan flavours.
Such an exciting an intoxicating city as Marrakech warrants at least another day of exploration! Today we’ll see the Palais de la Bahia, an opulent palace constructed in the 19th century, before escaping the intensity of the medina for the serenity of the Jardin Majorelle, the lush gardens owned by designer Yves Saint Laurent. ‘Amal’ in Arabic means ‘hope’ and for lunch we will visit a very special restaurant called “Amal” which is also a training centre for disadvantaged women where the students train in Moroccan cuisine and hospitality. This afternoon, why not shop for keepsakes amidst the shops and stalls or simply enjoy our last evening at this stunning riad.
A bit of a ‘bus day’ today as we begin our journey through North Africa’s highest mountain range, known locally by Bebers as ‘Idraren Draren’ or ‘Mountains of Mountains’. This is some of the most spectacular scenery in Morocco and the pure mountain air will leave you breathless. This afternoon we will reach Ait Ben Haddou where we will stop for the evening.
This region is the film capital of Morocco and the World Heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou has certainly starred in a few of Hollywood’s blockbusters. Explore the narrow streets of this ancient fortified city, climbing steadily to reach the top for magnificent views of the surrounding palmeraie and the unforgiving hammada (stony desert). After lunch, there’s the opportunity to shop for authentic Berber carpets and antiques before arriving in Boumalne du Dades for the evening.
This morning we’ll visit the spectacular limestone cliffs of Todra Gorge before making our way towards the desert. We’ll escape the heat of the day and enjoy a leisurely lunch before heading east to the mighty Sahara. Our camels await us to take us to our desert encampment where we’ll reach as the final rays of the afternoon sun sink below the horizon. After a traditional dinner we’ll fall asleep beneath a blanket of stars.
We’ll jump in 4WDs this morning for our jeep safari through the dunes. Legend has it that the sand dunes appeared as punishment from God burying a wealthy local family who refused hospitality to a poor woman and her son. In reality, the dunes of Erg Chebbi certainly look divine, rising up to 160m and glowing rose-gold, then orange and finally pink-and-purple as the light changes. We’ll enjoy lunch at an Oasis in the shade of date palms before making our way to Midelt where we’ll get a taste of the region’s rich Berber heritage with a traditional Berber ceremony.
Today we head north from Midelt to the imperial city of Fes. On the way we’ll stop in the alpine-style village of Ifrane and you’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Switzerland and not North Africa! This evening we’ll dine in a beautiful converted riad whilst enjoying a sumptuous Moroccan feast.
The city of Fes is, in our opinion, like no other city on earth. The medina is the largest living Islamic medieval city in the world and as you step through Bab Bou J’loud (the main gate into the old city) you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Amongst the more than 10,000 streets you’ll find all you could ever want and more: silver- and coppersmiths moulding metal into submission, weavers, artisans, food stalls, everything.
Meknes reached its' pinnacle during the 17th century when Sultan Moulay Ismail set out to make the city the equal of its' European counterpart, Versailles. We'll visit the granaries that stabled the Sultan's 12,000 horses before we head to lunch. Later we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Volubilis, considered to be the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco and home to a number of stunning mosaics before making our way to Chefchaouen.
Located beneath the raw peaks of the Rif Mountains it is here in Chefchaouen that you will notice an unmistakably Spanish influence. This morning we will explore the delightful medina with its' blue-white walls and terracotta tiles, small and uncrowded it is easy to explore. There's the option this afternoon to go for a fairly easy walk to the springs of Ras el-Maa and the ruined Spanish Mosque where you will find some of the most spectacular views of the town below.
We leave Chefchaouen and head to Morocco's capital city, Rabat. We'll search for lunch down narrow streets lined with whitewashed walls that open out to a breath-taking vista over the ocean. There's free time to explore the laid-back souqs and stalls before transferring to Casablanca. It's our last evening together so perhaps we'll "play it again Sam" and finish with dinner at Rick's Cafe.
This morning we will bid farewell to new friends as our cultural tour of Morocco concludes after breakfast.
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Moroccan cuisine has a diversity of influences from Berbers, Arabs, Moors, Jewish Moors and let's not forget the Ottoman Empire. The cuisine of the Berbers still exist today with dishes such as couscous and tagines, the Arabs bringing spices, nuts and many varieties of dried fruits, the Moors bringing olives and citrus whilst the Jewish Moors introduced preserving techniques such as preserved lemons and pickles with the Ottoman Empire introducing kebabs. Over time dishes have been perfected to blend each of these distinct tastes varying with the season, region and the market. Spices such as dried ginger, cumin, turmeric are found in most kitchens in Morocco and these are used in almost every tagine or couscous. Bread made from durum wheat, barley or rye flour is an essential part of any Moroccan meal and used to soak up sauces and pick food from communal dishes. On our cultural tour of Morocco you will experience Morocco's famous Pastilla. This unusual dish (and one of our personal favourites!) combines pigeon, roasted almonds, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, all wrapped up in a pie then sprinkled with icing sugar. Moroccan patisseries, pancakes drizzled with honey, cakes made with almonds and raisins all accompanied by the Morocco's famous mint tea.
One of the delights of Marrakech is the joy of wandering around aimlessly through the labyrinth alleys and medina of this quintessential city. It is a city teeming with culture and unfathomable amounts of inspiration. If you have the time why not take a half day photography tour and not only improve your skills but get those hard to get shots.
Tucked away in the Atlas Mountains is the quaint village of Imlil and the famous Kasbah du Toubkal (we like to call it our own piece of Shangri-La). The peace and quiet in the High Atlas and at the Kasbah is hard to imagine and the genuine nature of the "staff folklore" is a magical experience. It certainly is a tribute to Berber culture and hospitality. Why not do some trekking while you are there.
No wonder Jimmy Hendrix loved this place. Local markets and seafood are two things that we love to devour and explore when travelling and the Essaouira medina with its’ vibrant colours, sounds and smells won’t let you down. The city is an eclectic blend of many elements from eighteenth century fortifications embracing a quintessentially Moroccan city with a history that goes far back. Essaouira's waterfront locale and laid back attitude make it the perfect place to spend a couple of day soaking up the atmosphere of this mellow, relaxed coastal town.
You will feel anything but “blue” when you visit this town with its’ blue washed houses, narrow cobbled streets there is a photo to be taken around every corner. Loose yourself as you explore the maze of narrow streets, ideal for meandering and getting lost in this magical city. This city is a dream for the adventurous and the wanderer with vendors peddling a colourful array of goods from leather products, carpets to the traditional woven blankets. The old medina is certainly a calming place when compared to the sights and sounds of Marrakech.
With nothing ahead but vast golden spaces, settle into the steady rhythm of the camel's step and enjoy the sound of hooves on the sand as you trek across the Sahara. For that spectacular nomadic experience enjoy friendly Berber hospitality in the middle of the big dunes of the Erg Chebi Desert. Your luxury desert encampment awaits you!
Overlooking a truly magnificent coastal lagoon the small sleepy village of Oualidia could arguably be one of the most picturesque places in Morocco. It is the perfect place to chill out and enjoy some of the best seafood this region has to offer.
Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones, Gladiator, you name it they have all been filmed here in pursuit of that mud turret cityscape. If your inner child needs waking up and you want to feel like Indiana Jones or Russell Crowe then this is the place to visit. Ait ben Haddou will give you a taste of what a true old Moroccan kasbah looks like. Make sure you see either sunrise or sunset from the top of the Kasbah you will not be disappointed.
The ‘Islamic’ label accorded by certain media outlets to the kind of global terrorism that the world is currently facing has had an adverse effect against certain nations that are as safe, if not safer, than the West and who have enjoy a social stability that would be judged as enviable even to Western standards. These nations have been unjustly labelled as dangerous to various degrees in the minds of some travellers without any objective reason for it just on the grounds of their religion or cultural background.
Morocco’s secular, non-religious, and Western lifestyles are visible in all major Moroccan cities. For example, a percentage of Moroccans consume every year hundreds of millions of litres of locally and legally produced wine and beer, whilst the rest adhere to the Islamic ban against alcohol. But both groups behave on the understanding that freedom is the most valued gift from God and that one has no right to interfere in the freedom of others.
I think in addressing the question of travelling to a Muslim country such as Morocco the attitude of locals towards the presence of foreigners in their land is key and a reliable indicator of how things stand with regards to terrorism. In Moroccan culture, the laws of hospitality are sacred to the point that a host is held responsible by the rest of the community for the life and welfare of his guest regardless of the guests’ race or beliefs. Moroccans regard travellers and foreign residents as guests in their country and for this, every honourable Moroccan takes the safety of travellers as a point of personal honour.
The number of Westerners living in Morocco is huge - some 87,000 were estimated in 2014.
Tensions between the different faiths are non-existent in the country. Jews and Christians are free to pursue their beliefs and live in peace with their Muslim neighbours. There are even local Jewish saints that are also revered by Muslims. The only Jewish Museum in the whole of the Arab world is located in Casablanca, and the Jewish quarters and synagogues in the main Moroccan cities are currently being renovated with public funds.
Look at the number of cases of profanation of Jewish cemeteries in the country over the last, let's say, twenty years: ZERO.
You may be surprised to know that Morocco is the only country in the world that acknowledges, in its Constitution, its Jewish heritage as co-substantial part of its national identity. It was also the first country in the world to acknowledge the independence of the United States of America, back in 1777 - yes; Morocco is America's oldest ally.
In November 2015 in an official statement, Morocco was described by the British Foreign Office as ‘one of the safest countries in the world to travel to’. Very recently France’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spoke in the same sense, adding that, in any case, Morocco was currently ‘the only safe North African country to visit. Morocco has been, indeed, the only country in the Middle East/North Africa region to avoid coming under a terrorist attack last year. The current level of alert for Morocco is lower than that accorded to countries such as Spain, France, or the UK. Not equal, not higher but lower.
In Morocco, gun crime is unheard of; the mere possession of a gun carries an automatic sentence of 25 years in jail. Put it this way: the number of casualties by mass shooting in Morocco over the last several years is ZERO. Compare this to the shooting incidents that plague US with regularity, for instance. Statistically, Morocco is much safer than any American or European big city and definitely one is much, much more likely to die in a shooting in the USA than in Morocco, where access to firearms is restricted to the police forces and the army only, and members of these bodies must account for every single bullet shot. Yet travellers cancel their trip to Morocco on the grounds of safety!